Drop in Colistin usage in pigs welcomed by industry

The pig sector has praised figures suggesting there has been a significant drop in the use of Colistin in the pig sector. 

The antibiotic is used as a last resort to treat a number of bacterial infections in both humans and animals. The latest available sales data from 2015 indicated that Colistin sold into veterinary medicines were already low, at around one-tenth of the EU recommended limit. However, preliminary analysis by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) has shown that data received via new pig e-Medicines (e-MB) suggest that the use of Colistin in pigs fells by over 70% last year.

This has been welcomed, as the use of Colistin use in humans has reportedly increased in recent years to treat specific serious bacterial infections that are resistant to other antibiotics.

“This is why the European Medicines Agency has classified Colistin as a highest priority ‘Critically Important Antibiotic’ for the treatment of a number of human bacterial conditions, despite it being a very old drug,” said Mandy Nevel from the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Pork. The levy board developed and launched the e-MB last year, which has collected the 2015 and 2016 medical records of more than two-thirds of the national herd.

Nevel added: “But crucially, the regulators have retained access for animal use because it also has importance as a last-resort drug to safeguard welfare in livestock. It’s very positive to see the pig sector – vets and farmers together – responding to the responsibility of having continued access to this drug as a last resort and reducing use where possible.”

The National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said the results reaffirmed the sector’s efforts to reduce antibiotic usage. “This data shows exactly how seriously farmers and their vets have taken this issue, and proves this is an industry that does what is says it will,” she said.

This week, the NPA and Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) submitted a joint proposal to the RUMA Targets Task Force for a proportionate long-term target in reducing overall antibiotic usage within the pig sector.

RUMA’s chair Gwyn Jones said the UK has the potential to become one of the five lowest users of Colistin in Europe. “We were looking for significant reductions in 2016 following the best-practice guidelines issued by the Pig Veterinary Society at the end of 2015, but this has exceeded our hopes,” he explained of the data.

Davies stressed the pig sector has been making strong progress in decreasing the use of antibiotics within its animals. “Concerted efforts are being made to improve education and offer practical advice on responsible use of antibiotics across the industry,” she added. “And a great deal of work is being done to find alternatives to antibiotics, such as through autogenous vaccination, bacteriophage technology and advanced genetic techniques.”

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